Friday, October 9, 2009

Nkisi Nkondi

Discord is the tension caused by a lack of agreement among persons, groups, or things. When I first looked at a Nkisi nkondi (hunter figure) of the Kongo in Africa, I immediately felt tension. My first thought was that some person must really dislike another. After reading, I found that this was a half truth. The figures or "hunters" are wooden statues with nails, glass and other sharp objects driven into the body. It turns out that hunters are used with the help of a priest to punish wrongdoers in the African Kongo. A person will go to a priest and ask them to unleash the power of the nkisi nkondi. the person will swear an oath and drive a sharp object into the statue binding themselves to the spiritual forces within. Nails are usually not driven into the face or cavity of the stomach where magical ingredients are stored to attract spirits. The spirits of the hunter will track down the wrongdoer and bring justice upon them. The number of protruding objects and open holes show how often a particular hunter has been used. The result is a physical manifestation of tension between people in a culture. The harsh metals and glass clashing with the smoothly sculpted wood cause physical dicord in the viewer.

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